Let me count the ways

What’s the problem with J J Ramsey’s last comment on Un-der-stan-ding met-a-phor?

I am trying to find a way to say this in a way that avoids sounding too accusatory, but for now I can’t: Don’t even try to use the murder of a little girl to shield your own ideas from scrutiny. I’m sorry to put it so harshly.

That is, why does it seem not just wrong, and obnoxious in the usual routine internetty way, and beside the point, and belligerent? Why does it seem even more than that?

Let’s see…Partly it’s the absurdity of saying he is trying to find a better way of saying it, but can’t. Of course he can. He said it the way he did because he wanted to say it the way he did. (Just as we said what we did in the final pages of Does God Hate Women? because that was what we wanted to say.) That kind of pseudo-regret is just a way of saying ‘Your offense is so foul that there simply is no other way to say this.’ It’s a way of underlining the aggression rather than diminishing it, but at the same time it’s a way of pretending to be attempting to be decent but being simply too overcome by outrage. It’s a bit of rhetoric embedded in a prolonged (for days and days, and thousands of words) attack on my use of rhetoric. It’s also a self-administered pat on the back.

Then the ‘Don’t even try’ – as if he’s the cop on the beat, shoving my arm up behind my back until my shoulder breaks. The bossy note. That adds an extra level of deliberate offensiveness, as if he’d caught me picking his pocket or molesting his child.

Then there’s the ‘use’ and the ‘murder of a little girl’ – which of course pisses me off more than all the rest combined and cubed, as no doubt it was meant to. I’m not using anything; I’m calling attention to a horrible outrage, and there is nothing wrong with doing that. The murder of a little girl indeed – would he even be aware of that murder if I hadn’t called it to his attention? Who is using what here? Where does he get off telling me not to ‘use’ it?

Then there’s the ‘to shield your own ideas from scrutiny.’ The brazen insultingness of that is obvious enough without my spelling it out – but it is worth noting that I wasn’t doing that; I wasn’t saying don’t scrutinize my ideas; I was saying that Madeleine Bunting has a warped sense of priorities because she gets in a fury at my use of language while skipping right over the incident that prompted it. It has to do with proportion, not with non-scrutiny. Bunting strains at a gnat and swallows a camel.

Then finally there’s the ‘I’m sorry to put it so harshly.’ That’s just more self-flattering having it both ways – saying the most grossly offensive thing you can think of, then pretending to be sorry for saying it. What nonsense – what mealy-mouthed, devious, self-serving nonsense.

I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s been at this, unbelievably, since last Saturday. Five days! Would you credit it? It’s so important that it’s worth five days of repeated lengthy posts, all to quarrel with some deliberately emotive metaphors. What was I just saying about proportion? Oh yes: that some people could use a better sense of it.

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